Tags: business skillssalesselling
Episode 102

Selling Skills for Architects with Richard Petrie

Enoch SearsApr 4, 2015

Effective selling is nothing more than communicating your value in a way that your prospective client understands and helping them to take the next step.

In today's episode you'll discover:

  • Why you shouldn't be a generalist
  • How to get paid for what you now do for free
  • How to sell to institutional clients
  • How to use the language that attracts your ideal client

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Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

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Enoch: Hello, Architect Nation. This is Enoch Sears. This is the show where I speak each week with a successful architect, designer, or consultant to discuss tips, strategies, and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice.

Today’s show is sponsored by BQE Software, the makers of ArchiOffice. ArchiOffice is the office and project management software built with the needs of architects in mind. For a limited time, start-up firms can get two free seats of ArchiOffice for a year. Go check it out at http://www.ArchiOffice.com.

When you speak to the folks over at BQE Software, please mention the show because when you use ArchiOffice, you support Business of Architecture, which allows me to continue bringing you this content.

Today’s guest is Richard Petrie, the world’s leading Architect Marketing Coach and trainer. He leads the training over at the Architects Marketing Academy. You can read more about that at http://www.ArchitectsMarketing.com.

In this episode, you’ll discover how to attract and land better clients, projects, and fees through the power of effective communication. With that, here’s today’s show.

Welcome, Richard to Business of Architecture.

Richard:: Thanks, nice to be back after about eighteen months.

Enoch: Yeah. So, Richard, about eighteen months ago we did connect, and it was because I had architect Mona Quinn on my show. This was only after she sent me an email saying that she was starting to have so much success using marketing principles – one of the first architects that I’ve heard that was actually using real marketing principles to grow her firm.

She’s a brand new firm and she said, “I have so much work right now; I don’t know what to do with it.” It was because she was working with her mysterious marketing coach. It turned out to be you.

Richard:: It was, yeah. That’s right. That was about eighteen months or two years ago. Time has flown.

Enoch: Well, I know she started off with a bang. I mean, we talked in those episodes (that people can look up) about how she got about 150 leads in one weekend, which is pretty unheard of for architects to get that kind of throughput. So, I’m sure they can go and catch that episode and be filled in on the backstory there.

Mona spent a lot of time setting up the marketing tools and systems that you helped her put into place. What’s happened since that initial success? What has she been up to, etc.?

Richard:: Yeah, sure. Just the background: I worked with Mona and helped her develop a system for getting appointments as an architect, and, like you said, it worked very well and it continuous to work very well. That was the core of the system that we then moved across in to the Architects Marketing Academy. Then, we’ve started to help a lot more architects using the same system that worked so well for her.

So, what’s she been up to? Well, actually, she’s got a new client – Me. I got her to do a Needs and Options Review, which is one of the biggest things that I thought her to do. I actually hired her to do one for me, which is come in, do an assessment on a piece of land I had, give me some options on it, and charge me for it.

She charged me for it. She did that correctly as well. There’s no free work. She’s not getting all the money from me. In fact, she’s only getting a small slice, but, I believe, and I may be speaking out of scope, she’s increased her income by 300% from where we started, which is good news.

I know it’s not all about money for architects – they like to be doing good work – but she is doing good work too. She was flown over to Australia a couple of months ago to a spiritual project over there, and she’s been inducted on to a board, a heritage board, in New Zealand. She sent a text actually saying, “Hey, guess who’s been inducted on to the Special Heritage Board.” I texted back going, “Me?” “No, try again.”

So, anyway, we positioned her as an expert on heritage site. “You need to niche, or you should niche, at least give it a go.” She did that. Now, she’s been in official positions within that thing. She really is not only talking about herself as being an expert, she’s also being seen as an expert by the people. So, it’s been a really good, interesting journey over the last three years for her.

Enoch:Richard, you just covered a lot of stuff there and I want to unpack that a little bit. The last thing you talked about was positioning Mona as an expert.

I was watching a YouTube video today (amazing) about this photographer from Central California. I don’t know if you follow photography much, but it seems everyone, nowadays, is in to photography because they have these new DSL cameras…

Richard:: Is it the guy that does the waves breaking?

Enoch: Oh, no, but that’s another one. That’s a good idea. I remember that one also. So, tell me the story about that and I’ll share the story that I saw today on YouTube.

Richard:: Yeah. I mean, photography is photography, and they’re struggling because everybody has got a camera. My daughter’s got a camera which is a good camera. Everyone thinks they can do their own photos nowadays, so how do you sell photography at a premium? It’s, kind of, hard.

But, the way to continue to make money in any industry where you’re feeling commoditize is you pick off a niche where there is money and you become an expert on that area, and then you become the go-to person. This guy of the video I watched, he specialized in waves. Oh, there’s a special name for it – where the wave breaks just on the sand.

He specializes on just taking shots of waves as they’re breaking on the sand. Talk about a niche. The photos are beautiful. They are beautiful photos. He became world famous now and he goes to shows because he’s an expert in a small thing. That’s how it works. Unfortunately, I know architects want to be generalists.

So, what was your story?

Enoch: Well, you mentioned that, that guy is from Hawaii. I do remember that now, and these incredible pictures of the sand being sucked up and then crashing on the beach. This guy, that’s all he did.

So, this guy is a similar thing. He’s talking to the interviewer and he’s telling him, “Look, whenever I talk to young photographers, I tell them you have to pick out a niche.”

Richard:: Yeah.

Enoch: So, this particular guy, he specializes in big landscape shots that include water and usually includes surfers or people in the foreground. He, kind of, does these interesting lighting. So, he might do evening shots or morning shots, and that’s his thing. So, he said, “I picked that out, and I just became really, really good at that,” so he said, “That’s what I suggest to the young photographers.”

Richard:: Yup. There’s no doubt. As an architect, you can be a generalist – lots of them are. They do a bit of everything, some commercial, some residential, which is fine, but if you ever find it’s getting really tough and you need to be more sophisticated in your marketing, if you come to me, that’s what you have to do.

You don’t have to pick out one, but you have to become famous for one thing. It doesn’t mean you can’t do other things, but you have to build a bit of a marketing message; a bit of a marketing model on one thing over here, maybe another thing over here because people are attracted to experts and specialists. So, that’s a summary on that one.

Enoch: Well, you also mentioned not charging for free appointments. The free appointment, the whole issue there – you said you had Mona Quinn charge for those initial appointments. Unpack that a little bit for me. What’s going on with that?

Richard:: One of the biggest things working with architects over the past two and a half years is helping them craft a way to get paid, getting away from the free site visits, and doing the free design, and free pre-design work, I suppose. Some of them even do sketches or things like that. We’ve been stopping them doing that.

I don’t mind people having a meeting, you know, having an initial meeting where you get on the phone, you have a chat with them for half an hour or twenty minutes. The next step is to go in to some sort of feasibility or some sort of review of their options, but getting paid for it.

Anyone listening to this who’s done too much free work, and they know who they are, you know who you are, you know what I’m talking about. You get in the trap of continuing to give, give, give, give in the hope that you’ll end up getting the design work. Well, unfortunately, that works really badly.

The sooner that you can get them in to- even a small, we call it a LCC or a Low Cost Consult, you transition them very quickly from having a nice, friendly chat and finding out about each other in to a “Here’s the next step…” “If we’re going to work together, here’s the next step.” “We need to do some research, do some analyses, do a review, and work out what your options are.” “It’s a small session I run, it costs whatever, $150, $500.”

The record for charging for this thing with one of the guys on our program is $12,000 for, sort of, a no design, just feasibility. Most people are charging $750 or something like that, some are charging $1500 to go and do the research. This is often the research a lot of architects are currently doing for free. So, if you’re doing all that for free, and then I suggest you’ve got to work a way to stop doing it for free. Join the Architects Marketing Academy. I’ll show you how to do it.

But, just come with your own little package, your consultation package, so that you can move them in to something formal and get paid for giving away your expertise, which is effectively you do. You sow seven or eight years to know this stuff. Just because it doesn’t take you long to give it to the person just because you know it, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be paying for it.

It’s easy to give out, too easy for you, but it’s taken you eight years, at least, to know that stuff. If I go to a lawyer or a brain surgeon, they know the stuff I’m asking those questions to and they charge me right from the first minute. So, anyway, that’s my big sermon – stop giving away stuff for free, architects.

Enoch: Well, Richard, I have a lot of guests here on the Business of Architecture, but you’re more than just a guest, more than just a buddy. In the interest of transparency, we actually are business buddies, business partners in the Architects Marketing Academy where you’re the top trainer, lead instructor, and coach.

You want to just give people a little overview of what the Architects Marketing Academy is? They may have heard me mention it. Just let us know what that’s all about.

Richard:: Yup. Well, you should know about it. Everybody on the Business of Architecture should be aware of it – full disclosure. It’s a place you can go and basically get trained to market and sell yourself. Architects spend about eight years learning how to be a great architect, and do great work, and help people live better lives in better spaces. They get about that much training in how to sell that thing.

So, I believe you’ve got two jobs. Your first job is to be a marketer of architectural services. That’s your number one job. Your second job is to be a great architect, but there is no second job without the first job, right? The amount of training for architecture is that and the amount of training for selling architecture is that. So, we give you that. We give you more. We give you a chance to actually be able to… It’s all about just marketing yourself and branding. It’s about how to make the phone ring, get appointments, and get paid.

We run this program, which basically gives people tools, knowledge, resources, we give them a lot of stuff that they can just cut and paste in templates, and we do newsletters. So, it’s the place to go if you want to grow your business, or you want to increase your fees, or if you want to win better quality projects.

Enoch: Break down, for me, the systematic process that we teach in the academy to give people an idea of how that really works in terms of getting those inquiries and getting those appointments.

Richard:: Oh, right. Okay. So, going right back to the start, we work on the basis that the best way to get inquiries, get referrals, and get customers is through marketing education or being an educator in your market. Now, the reason for that is, one, no one else is marketing education to their market. When I say education, how to get a Resource Consent to build a commercial building in this area, or how to hire an architect, or any problems that you think your target market has, you provide resources and thoughts.

Now, what that does is position you as an expert because whoever educates the market, owns the market. Sales people have brochures, experts have books. What we want to do is be an expert. You’re already an expert, so let’s surround yourself with some of the expert tools and provide educational resources. Immediately, as soon as you start being a teacher, you move up the pyramid, you become seen as more expertly and worldly.

We do a lot of that type of stuff. We look to generate leads to people. We look to make automated follow up systems in place. We create LCCs or a chance for people to get a consultation that they can pay for so it’s an easy one to sell, which hopefully will transition them right up the ladder and getting them in to a client. There are lots of things. It’s really just about getting the phone to ring, and getting clients, and positioning yourself as an expert.

Winston Churchill said, “If you want me to speak for two hours, it takes me two minutes to come and work out what I’m going to say. If you want me to speak for two minutes, it takes me two hours to work out what I’m going to say.”

Enoch: Yeah.

Richard:: That’s why I’m rambling.

Enoch: So, what do you say to commercial architects that say, “You know, those kinds of stuff, that works really great for residential architects, but it’s not going to work for me. We work with institutions, and planning boards, and stuff like that.”?

Richard:: No one works with an institution. You don’t. You work with people. Marketing is about psychology, of helping understand what people want and giving it to them. That applies whether you’re selling to people working in organizations or whether you’re working with a husband and wife. You need to understand what their specific needs and wants are and what their specific problems are, and then we reverse engineer a process to help people.

We help them early on, but before we ask for any money, we’ll look to provide solutions to help them. That’s your doorway in. It’s by being useful, by being helpful, and helping them solve their problems. That applies to people who are working in big organizations who wear suits that scare you and who put out proposal documents. [Inaudible] across here applies to them just as much as it applies to a husband and wife.

Enoch: So, what tips can you give for architects that are in that position where they are forced in to, maybe, a proposal process where they have to give a proposal, they might have to go to a meeting? How can they use some of these skills to be more convincing and to help apply correct marketing principles by giving, you know, basically giving the clients what they want?

Richard:: Okay. I’ll give you one tip. One tip would be: Do not submit a proposal to a big organization if they’re looking to get five, or ten, or twenty people to submit proposals unless you have access to all the key decision makers and stakeholders.

So, how do you do that? Well, in a lot of cases, if you come in late, you can’t. They’ll just submit a document to you, in which case, I would say, forget it. Your chance of winning one of those types of tenders is just a lottery and they don’t necessarily even pick the best person anyway.

What you do, if you can get in, is you say, “Right. We’ll only respond to tender if we’ve had a chance to meet all the stakeholders so that we can do a proper diagnosis, so that when we prescribe something to you…” Think of a doctor. Treat yourself as a doctor. “We can only prescribe a solution to your proposal if we have met all the stakeholders. At the moment, we don’t have enough information for this tender document.”

So, you’ll find some of them will go, “No, you can’t. We already…” in which case, it’s too late anyway. Walk away. Find another deal where you’re in early. But, if they do let you, then you’ve got a chance to go in and do a proper diagnosis on each of the stakeholders.

Find out what they each need and find out how some of that- some of it will be in conflict. Person in Department A will want something that doesn’t fit the person in Department B. Well, you need to know that before you can do a proposal, so that’s why you do it. It’s good for you and it’s good for them. If you don’t get that opportunity, then why bother.

Enoch:Richard, let’s see, in February, we had a live event, which was the first live event that we held in the Architects Marketing Academy. We flew everyone to… Well, they flew themselves to Las Vegas. We flew you up here to Las Vegas, right? We rented a penthouse over there in the Mandalay Bay and had a good time with, I think, it was twenty-six architects from across the U.S. Andrew Donaldson joined us all the way from Australia.

Richard:: That’s right. I don’t know if you realize, but his wife is an air hostess someone, so he does fly cheap.

Enoch: Very nice. He’s a crack up. This guy is awesome.

Richard:: Yeah, exactly.

Enoch: What were you teaching there? Let’s talk a little bit about what we did there in Vegas.

Richard:: Yup.

Enoch: We’ve been talking a lot lately about the Petrie Method. So, give us an idea of what exactly is the Petrie Method.

Richard:: Okay. Well, the “Petrie Method” wasn’t named by me. It was named by my business partners. It was called some other things. But, what we teach in the Architects Marketing Academy is marketing, and generating leads, and getting appointments, and converting those appointments. What we talked about in Vegas was more face to face communication skills. You could say sales skills, but it’s not so much sales skills, it’s more communication skills.

So, we talked about handling objections, the common ones that architects get. We talked about talking to your clients in a different language. The language is, sort of, a “clientology” or “buyer language,” the way they’re thinking.

There’s [Inaudible] I do it too, sometimes, but when we’re selling things, we tend to talk from a different perspective as to when we’re buying. The irony is we’re buying so much, we should be great at talking like a buyer, but we’re not. There’s a switch. We talked about this in the seminar. There’s a switch when we’re selling stuff that, all of a sudden, we talk differently.

We covered fast track pitches on how to communicate your value and your benefits very quickly. We talked about questions to ask. So, there were more face to face selling. I don’t like to use the words “selling skills” because I know architects have a bit of a phobia about that word, but it is more communication skills. We’re all trying to help the other person to be better at communicating.

Enoch: Well, you mentioned talking about the buyer’s language and that a flip switches in our heads. You, kind of, got in there a little bit, but could you explain and give examples of what you mean by that, to help our listeners understand?

Richard:: Yeah, sure, okay. The irony is, if I look at myself, even today, I’ve already gone out and spent $300 or $400 on things, buying things.

I’m renovating a house, so I’m putting in a shower and there’s a dome for the shower. I’m thinking, when I’m buying the dome, right? I’m thinking, alright, the dome, what it does is stop the moisture creating steam and the room getting all sweaty. I’m thinking, this dome will stop the mess, and stop the steam, which means I won’t have to come in and paint this roof every two years, because it’s getting moldy, because of all the moisture in the air. I’m not going to have to do that. So, I’m going to spend $200 because it’s going to save me time and trouble later on and protect the house, right?

When I’m in there buying the dome, I’ve got a sales person pointing out the features. “This one’s got this…” “This one’s good for this…” but they’re talking about the features like they’re selling a car, you know? It’s got air bags. It’s got this and that. I’m not interested in any of that. All I’m interested in is how it’s going to fit me. This person, all he was interested in doing selling was telling me about the features.

Now, to bring this back to an architect. I’m not architect, so I don’t know, but if I look at websites, I see things like: “I’m BIM,” and “I’m passive house,” and “I belong to this board.” It’s all stuff about them.

Buyer language is to two different ends. One is [Inaudible] If A then B. FEATURE is what a thing is. BIM, that’s what it is. The ADVANTAGE is what it does. So, you do 3D drawings before you do anything. It’s a process which you have to create 3D drawings or something like that. The ultimate side is the benefit. The BENEFT is how it affects someone’s life. [Inaudible] as a buyer. That’s the only bit I’m really interested in. It’s that final piece. How does it affect my life? That’s called a benefit.

So, how does it affect my life? If an architect is talking to me, they need to be talking about how… “Would it be useful to see your design, see your house before we actually commit to anything, and before we spend big money doing stuff? Would that be useful for you, Mr. Petrie?” Of course, yes it would, because a lot of architects won’t.

They’ll come up with sketches on paper, but what we found in the past is that causes problems because the buyer, the homeowner doesn’t really understand. When they see it being built, they go, “Oh, I was thinking something else.” So, the benefit is, you get to save money, you get to see it, you get to know you’ve got the right thing. It’s not about them. It’s not about the 3D drawings. It’s about how it’s going to affect me.

That’s probably a terrible explanation, but the short form is: Feature, Advantage, Benefit. Feature is logical; benefit is emotional on how it’s going to affect me. If architects can spend more time talking about the consequences of some of these things, then what they do is they start to speak more emotionally, and they start having deeper conversations about more interesting things to buyers.

If you’re going to list off features of what you’re doing, we don’t care. Our eyes start to glaze over, and you wonder why we ended up hiring someone down the round who you think is not as good as you, but, maybe, they were better at speaking at this side of the equation. So: Features, Advantage, Benefits. The money is in the benefit side, not the feature side.

Enoch: Well, I remember that in Vegas, we had the architects go through this process of talking about their features, translating them in to advantages, and then turning those in to benefits which are ultimately outcomes. I remember Oscia, when she did hers, I mean, everyone’s jaw basically dropped. I think she got applause when people heard the way that she reframed it using that FAB framework.

Richard:: There is a video that people can watch at no charge. We’ve put up a video somewhere. If you can put a link under this video here where you can watch that training… It actually has Oscia in it doing her example which is well-worth seeing.

So, if you have trouble communicating with people, watch this. It’s only about a twelve-minute training video on benefit busting. Please watch that. You can go in deeper in to it, but that twelve-minute video will get you going and down the right path. You must watch it. If you’re watching this thing here today, you must go and watch that twelve-minute training video.

Enoch: Absolutely. If you’re listening to this on iTunes or something, just search for “Business of Architecture Richard Petrie” and look for episode 102. I’ll have the link in the show notes to that. We recorded all of the training we did in Vegas, that’s actually a “for sale” product, but we did pull out this particular section, so you can actually get the best part of that FAB training absolutely free.

Go check it out. I think it’s going to be a lot of value to you, and that’s just in exchange for your email address. Plus, you’ll get access to the Architects Marketing email list, which is we’re always sending out a lot of good information about marketing, and communication, and influence for architects.

Richard:: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people, the architects at this Vegas thing, said that the stuff around benefits is one of the most eye-opening things they had come across because it changed the way they thought. So, you know, like you say, it’s free. You can go and watch it, so definitely go and do that.

Enoch: Yeah. If you want to get that, go ahead and go to http://www.BusinessOfArchitecture/FAB. That will take you to the page where you can get access to that training. Both Richard and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on that.


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Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.


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